Slow Motion

I just did 20 minutes of bed yoga. This was my first real yoga session in two months. (This post comes from a place of frustration – just so you know. Feel free to skip past the lament and straight to the last five paragraphs or so.)

Since mid-August I’ve been struggling with a running train of health issues, starting with bursitis in my right shoulder. It forced me to a near standstill, partly due to pain and partly because I needed to take care not to let it get out of hand to the point where it would require a corticosteroid injection into the joint (I have experience with those in my other shoulder, and if they can be avoided – avoid them!).

What happened next was pretty much my own fault. Here’s what happened.

We’ve been doing some house and garden renovations. The garden was done entirely by a rather brilliant gardening company who turned our back garden into a thing of beauty– for the first time in years, we actually spent time in our garden, enjoying the weather and relaxing in comfort. But the garden wasn’t the only thing we decided to change.

The living room also got a revamp, and a lot of that was (IKEA) DIY. Now, people who know me will tell you that I tend to attack these projects with reckless (stupid?) abandon, and this project was no exception. There was a couch to be put together and a TV/audio cabinet/book/display case to be built and I was on it! Since the bursitis was in decline, I got cocky and basically spend three days hammering, sawing, lifting, and doing general construction, taking as few breaks as I could because I wanted it done.

This was after I’d spent several hours the weeks before taking apart bookcases after emptying them of what I can only describe as a mountain of books and moving those books into boxes and those boxes around the living room in anticipation of the new furniture arriving.

Now, when I do things like this, I am not particularly good at paying attention to my physical well-being. For instance, I am perfectly capable of ending up with bloody scratches and bruises in strange places without being able to reconstruct the specific events leading to them.

Which is how I broke a bone in my hand. Not sure what I did exactly, but broken it was.

Quite painful, really, especially the first few days in the cast.

It was around that time, incidentally, that I also noticed a painful spot around a vertebra (which I think I can trace back to hitting my back hard against a table while moving around furniture, but I can’t be sure – it’s a particular talent; what can I say?). That painful spot is only marginally less painful 4 weeks on.

All of the above is not to invite you to a pity party, just really to illustrate the self-inflicted nonsense I’ve been dealing with these past 2 months.

And as I said earlier, it’s brought me to a near standstill.

And, as I also said earlier, this morning was my first yoga session in 2 months. It was only 20 minutes of bed yoga, but that’s the only yoga I can do at the moment. My hand and wrist have been painful, stiff and near devoid of strength since the cast came off, and I can’t really place any weight on them, which makes a lot of yoga poses quite difficult (downward facing dog, cat cow, cobra, and so on). So the asanas for now will have to be mostly focused on mobility and flexibility, and any surface I practice on will have to be soft yet supportive, both for my hand/wrist and my back – i.e. bed yoga.

It felt so good to finally be doing yoga again. If I’m honest, it wasn’t just the injuries that kept me from practicing; I’ve also been in a bit of a funk since all of these issues started. Pain is demotivating and exhausting, not to mention it makes you pretty damn cranky! But as, since all this started, I’ve gotten only a fraction of the exercise and movement that I used to get as recently as 4 months ago, I’m now seeing a massive decline in strength and mobility. This morning’s session really brought that home for me: I was sluggish and inflexible, and I spent most of the session pushing past the discomfort in various parts of my body.

I also spent a lot of time comparing what I was able to do this morning to what I was able to do not too long ago. Beginner king dancer? Forget it! Crow? Pipe dream at this point. Supported head stand? Umm, no. Eight angle pose? I don’t even want to think about it! And I used to be able to do those poses!!

That said – and this is the good part – it felt so good to finally pick up my yoga again. Nothing has really been forgotten; I still spend a good part of my day thinking about the various poses, yoga philosophies, how to get used to yoga with fewer asanas for the time being, and how I can incorporate what I’m going through into what I hope one day to be a practice that includes others: a practice that aims to help people in similar situations to me, people who have injuries that prevent them from doing the asanas that an undamaged body can do.

It’s also helpful for me to see that I need to make a mental adjustment. While I firmly believe that it’s good to keep striving for progress – of course it is! – doing it just for that reason to me means I’ve been doing it for the wrong reasons of late. I need to do the yoga that is good for me, both physically and mentally. I shouldn’t be doing it to show off how advanced my poses are and how “good” I am at yoga. If you do yoga and you’re doing it well – that is: in a way that is good for your body and mind – then you’re good at yoga. More than that: don’t do yoga to be good at yoga. Do it because yoga is good for you.

Maybe it’s a reminder I needed. For a yogi, I’ve been pretty damn awful at listening to my body, always pushing too far. It’s in my nature, but it’s not exactly healthy or sensible. And it’s certainly not yoga.

So here’s what I’ve concluded: I’m pretty stubborn so life has given me a kick in the butt after repeated and futile gentle nudges. I guess for me the lesson here is to take the subtle hints a little better from here on in. I hope I’m not too old to learn.

Merry Christmas

I’m back here on my blog for the first time in two years. Not counting the political upheaval and all its emotional and real-world repercussions, these have been challenging years – especially this past one.

And precisely because this is true, I have been trying to count my blessings every day, and to enjoy the little things, the moments, the people that make my life special and that keep me going.

So with that in mind: have a very merry Christmas, everyone, and enjoy the holiday season! Stop long enough to recognize and soak up the small things, the moments, the people. It really only takes a few seconds and it’s absolutely worth it!

Restoring the Fourth Estate

Good, honest, impartial and balanced reporting has always been important, but never more so than today.

We’re at a pivotal moment in Western civilization, where societies will commit either to democracy or authoritarianism. Now, more than ever, it is time for the Fourth Estate to recommit to providing one of the most essential checks and balances: an informed public. That means a renewed dedication to reporting facts and truth, and clearly indicating when an item is a news report and when it is an opinion piece or endorsement. It means no more click bait, no more sensationalist headlines, no more unsubstantiated reports, no more claims out of context, no more witch hunts or character assassinations. In other words, it is time for the media to step up to do its most important job: to help people understand their communities, their country, and the world and all its people and cultures.

Ratings and circulation are important, of course, because a media outlet must be a viable enterprise, but the nature and purpose of the press has gotten lost in a tsunami of capitalism and a battle of ideologies. This likely means that a new economic model is needed to ensure an independent, fair and unbiased press whose voice will not be drowned out among the misinformation and disinformation currently poisoning the well.
The mess we find ourselves in today is due to any number of causes, chief among them a lack of transparency, a lack of information and knowledge, and as a result of these a breakdown in communication and a lack of understanding and respect.

In a healthy democracy, there is no room for a post-factual approach or disdain for the truth, especially if it’s an inconvenient one. History matters, and so does the present. In order to preserve the future, there should be a clear and uncontested path for all citizens to obtain the facts, engage in critical thinking on the basis of those facts, and to reach their own conclusions. We may each draw different conclusions, and we may not agree with one another, but at least the foundation will be solid, and we will not be drawn into a disastrous future with the wool drawn over our eyes.

 

Wij hebben nog tijd

Sinds de overwinning van meneer Trump in de Amerikaanse presidentsverkiezingen heeft het gespookt in mijn hoofd. Eng om te zien dat mensen uit puur protest iemand met de overtuigingen van die man konden verkiezen tot hun president, maar ik begon me af te vragen of het hier ook kan gebeuren; of wij er hier ook toe in staat zijn om feiten, xenofobische en racistische uitspraken te negeren om een demagoog ons land te laten besturen.

Zeker na de toon die is gezet in Amerika over het afgelopen jaar is de inzet immers: als je maar klare taal spreekt, maakt het niet uit wat er uit je bek rolt. Toch?

En als we daarin meegaan, zijn we minstens zo erg als die Amerikanen waar we nu al dagen met afschuw, spot en ongeloof over praten.

Die uitspraak: hij zegt wat ik denk/voel, daar moet toch automatisch een andere vraag aan gekoppeld zitten? Is wat ik voel misschien eigenlijk wel gewoon een beetje fout?

Als iemand hardop een door angst of onwetendheid of eenvoudige gemeenheid ingegeven uitspraak doet waarvan hij eigenlijk best weet dat die niet te verteren is omdat het gedachtengoed erachter niet in orde is, dan hoef je zo iemand niet te prijzen omdat hij hardop zegt wat niet deugt en wat andere mensen dan dus misschien wel voelden/dachten maar tot dan ook niet hardop zeiden omdat het niet deugt. Zulke ideeën worden niet opeens verheven of fatsoenlijk omdat een politicus ze luidkeels verkondigt.

Laten we proberen om te leren van de fouten die nota bene op ons eigen grondgebied nog geen honderd jaar geleden zijn gemaakt, en waarvoor velen zich nog steeds plaatsvervangend schamen. Een collectieve waanzin die zo erg is geweest dat generaties later nog steeds geen excuses afdoende zijn om goed te maken wat de bevolking hier toen een hele bevolkingsgroep heeft aangedaan. Omdat een demagoog zei dat het hun problemen zou oplossen – problemen die daardoor niet alleen nog veel erger werden, maar die gezelschap kregen van andere, nog veel ergere problemen. Een onderbuikreactie die zoveel schade heeft berokkend dat er na afloop van WO II meerdere verdragen zijn opgesteld in een poging ons in de toekomst te beschermen tegen onze eigen kwade demonen. Het is triest dat dat überhaupt nodig is, dat dat fatsoen niet ingebakken zit en verwacht mag worden.

We hebben toegang tot meer kennis, informatie en communicatiemogelijkheden dan ooit. Er is geen excuus meer om ongeïnformeerd te zijn als we dit soort belangrijke beslissingen maken. Ja, we voelen en we vrezen, maar we moeten ook denken en durven.

En dat betekent dat we niet alleen haat en isolationisme moeten afwijzen, maar vooral ook dat de politiek een goed alternatief moet bieden voor de retoriek van de populisten en demagogen die ons vertellen wie we de schuld moeten geven van alles, maar die met geen woord reppen over daadwerkelijke oplossingen. Alsof met de vinger wijzen het antwoord is. Het is wel makkelijk natuurlijk: dan hoef je je verder niet in te spannen om constructief te zijn en kun je net doen alsof globalisering niet bestaat, behalve als het je uitkomt. En dat cynisme, daar halen de populistische partijen hun macht vandaan. Ze zijn er echt niet in geïnteresseerd het leven beter te maken voor “echte” Nederlanders.

Dus, politiek Nederland, laat je van je goede kant zien. Erken dat er een hoop mensen zijn die legitieme problemen hebben met de gang van zaken hier, die zich zelfs gemarginaliseerd voelen, en doe het niet af als een gevalletje “ze begrijpen er niet genoeg van”. Zie de problemen, en bied constructieve oplossingen of op zijn minst een uitleg.

En wij als kiezers: laten we asjeblieft leren van onze eigen en andermans fouten, en niet vanuit de onderbuik besluiten. Laten we niet een land creëren waar politici onze burgers bang maken voor onze medeburgers. Dat land bestaat al: het heet Amerika.

 

NoNoWriMo

Oh, it is so well beyond time for me to write something on this blog again. I got lost in mothering and tidying (yes, Marie Kondo got her hooks into me too). The tidying is almost done – I’ve mostly adhered to the category based tidying system, but our attic (read: dumping ground in the seventh circle of hell) really is a space based project. It is on the calendar for the day after tomorrow. Which gives me time to find courage anywhere I can. Somehow.
And now that I have regained some semblance of order, I feel like it is appropriate for me to get back into blogging. The timing is right: it’s NaNoWriMo after all. Now, I know I’m not going to be able to crank out 2500 words a day and twice that on Sundays, because between birthday parties, childhood illnesses, laundry, budgeting and seriously challenged energy reserves, I’m lucky if I manage to stay awake when I’m sitting with my youngest until he falls asleep in his bed at 7 PM. So no NaNoWriMo for me. You can call me unambitious, or just a realist.

A blog post on a regular basis should be feasible, though. 

This is the so-manieth try in a series of attempts to finally firmly establish a healthy, consistent writing habit. I keep trying, and failing, and trying again. Eventually I’ll get it right, but until I do I’m going to give myself some credit for not giving up.

And that’s worth something, for sure.

My Thoughts on Brexit

Given the events of the past week, it seems Britain is in a pickle. Even with the UK currently stuck between a rock and a hard place, many might still be convinced that Leave was the right way to vote, but extricating the UK from the European Union without significant side-effects is proving rather more difficult than expected.
But then, the orchestrators of Brexit seem in no particular hurry to set events in motion, nor do they seem to even have a plan – even a very basic, broad strokes one – for how to proceed. That, however, is Britain’s problem now, as the EU is anxious for it to invoke article 50 and begin its departure, relieving everyone from the unnecessary uncertainty that is the current state of affairs.
What Britain has learned is that its departure looks to be a lot less smooth than Farage, Johnson and Gove, to name a few, have made it out to be. Promises were made and walked back, assurances were given which now prove untrue.

The European Union has spent (wasted?) a considerable amount of time negotiating a deal with David Cameron, an outcome and effort that Cameron himself apparently thought so little of as to have it tossed aside in the referendum that he himself promised in order to leverage his re-election.

Leaving aside the ugliness of the campaign leading to the current outcome, Britain now finds itself in an interesting but untenable position.
The EU has invested a lot in trying to keep Britain in the Union – something the British no doubt see differently – and so for this reason and many more it now no longer feels inclined to make any allowances when Britain finally decides to invoke article 50. For possibly the first time ever, the UK will be treated no differently than any other country, it will not get the opt-outs it is so used to injecting into every agreement, it will not get to cherry pick its privileges without committing itself to certain obligations. It will, in other words, have to take or leave what it is offered. If it takes what it can get, the voters at home will be miffed, to say the least. If it doesn’t, the guaranteed access to the common market that Boris Johnson so confidently wrote about simply will not happen. That will result in a whole different set of problems for Britain, chief among them the high likelihood of the dissolution of a formerly United Kingdom with Scotland likely deciding to secede if that is the only way for it to remain in the European Union (recent talks certainly seem to point in that direction), and Northern Ireland exploring its options with Ireland.

If Parliament should decide to walk back the decision and risk the ire of a set of disenfranchised Leave voters, the UK will still have irreparably damaged its relationship with its constituent parts by showing a shocking disregard for, for example, Northern Ireland and the Good Friday agreement, and the reassurances it gave Scotland at the time of its independence referendum in 2014. It will also have permanently altered its relationship (and not for the better) with the European Union, which seems increasingly disinclined to “take it back” as it were even if it changed its mind, Britain having proven itself such an unreliable partner. In fact, if Nigel Farage is to be taken seriously (a subject for a separate discussion in itself) Britain’s membership in the EU has been something of a Trojan horse. Yes, Minister was supposed to be a satirical comedy show; Farage seems to have taken it, stripped it of its humour, injected it with malice and applied it to his presence in the European Parliament.

And so, after a protest vote in an ill-advised referendum, Britain seems to have little to no room to move and not really anywhere to go. The climate inside its borders, newly accentuated, is hostile and tense. Brexit was a rash decision, made on the basis of tenuous arguments, misinformation and false promises. I imagine there are quite a few people who wish they could take all this hindsight and turn back time on this tangled mess. If only Doctor Who were real.

2016, What Will You Do Next?

It has been a long time since I published a blog post. Life has been busy and I’ve found over the past several months that it is all too easy – though not necessarily always a great idea – to sideline my own activities in favour of facilitating other people’s; this is true not only of me, but equally of my husband.

Not that that hasn’t also brought very satisfying results – our son is walking, even running, and beginning to talk; my daughter is finding her feet at her new school and has had some real successes – but it’s time to pick up some things again just for me.

Which is why I’m now writing this brief blog post, which will be followed shortly by a longer, more serious one.

But first, I would just like to ask one simple question: 2016, what the f***??!

This year has been marked by one unexpected celebrity death after another, multiple violent attacks, one personal loss, and one very far-reaching decision with potentially devastating consequences. And we’re barely even halfway! There’s 6 more months to go…

Brexit will ensure that those 6 months will not pass calmly and pleasantly, even if no other unexpected tragedies occur. Whoever wished upon us that we may live in interesting times is clearly getting their money’s worth.